West Virginia is ranked high on a list where, unfortunately, no state would want to come out on top: the rate of deaths from violence and accidents each year.
Overall, West Virginia ranked seventh in the United States, according to the groups Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The state has 82 deaths for every 100,000 people, as opposed to the rate of about 58 nationwide. The rates of death were attributed primarily to drug overdoses and vehicle collisions.
The report noted that West Virginia ranked second in the number of accidental deaths by poisoning in the country — 22 for every 100,000 residents (while the national average is 13.3). The poisoning deaths are generally considered to be due to prescriptions drug overdoses, from drugs like oxycodone and methadone.
West Virginia also had the country’s seventh-highest rate of death by motor vehicle crash at 19.8, as opposed to the national average of 12.4. For those 19 and under, this state has the sixteenth highest injury-related fatality rate, even though number of deaths has dropped 43% between 2000 and 2009. The report also found that West Virginia received poor marks due to a lack of measures in place to police seat belt wearing, bicycle and motorcycle helmet wearing, drunk driving, and use of child safety seats, along with sports concussions and accidental prescription drug overdoses. Of all of the states examined, West Virginia was one of 24 states to score five or fewer points out of a total of 10.
West Virginia is attempting to address the problems in a number of ways. First, a new state law will go into effect that will limit the amount of pain medications that can be dispensed by a doctor or clinic. The law also tightens the limit on the amount of cold medicine that can be purchased, making it harder to produce methamphetamine. As for motor vehicle accidents, West Virginia has determined that texting while driving will be a primary offense from July onward. Use of a cell phone in general will become a primary offense in July of 2013.
We at the Wolfe Law Firm welcome any effort by the state to increase safety measures. At the same time, there is more that could be done. The report noted that the state does not require ignition locks for drunk drivers who are convicted, allows police to ticket drivers for failing to wear a seat belt only when the driver has committed another traffic offense. Although a bill was introduced that would have made seat-belt violations a primary offense, it died in the House Judiciary Committee.
If you or your loved one are badly injured in a vehicle collision, you should hire an experienced West Virginia car accident attorney to help you get damages (a money award) for pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, and possibly for the other driver’s gross recklessness if that was a factor. You would argue that the other driver owed a duty to you and everyone else on the road to obey the law and drive with reasonable caution. The other driver breached that duty by driving recklessly. The breach led to your injury in an accident, and the resulting damage was anything from a concussion to broken limbs. If you were partially at fault for the accident, you can still collect a money award, unless your level of fault is 50% or more.